This is the second part in our Copperfox Story series (to read part one, please click here).
Utterly Horses officially started traded on 01/01/2001, a very easy and memorable date to recall, and was the start of a fantastic adventure. The below images are from our very first show, Equus, held at the ExCel Exhibition Center in London and as you can see, we attended with lots of stock, all squeeeeezed into our little stand. It's always fun looking at old images of stands and seeing what goodies we had for sale back then. The plush Buckys were always a hot favourite aswell as those SMs playsets that came in that hexagonal shaped packaging (it's funny how you remember weird and wonderful things!!). I've even kept our original exhibitor pass from the event.
It's also interesting to remember than back then, we attended many shows under the Breyer banner, as at the time we were the only stockist and it was the best way to promote the model horse brand. Over time, this would of course change as came the introduction of an official Breyer distributor dawned, together with more stockists. Many people assumed that we were the Breyer distributor but that was never the case. Utterly Horses was never the Breyer distributor for the UK and if it was ever mentioned, they were incorrect.
This is an interesting image (below) that I found in our archives. It is a copy of an order when we supplied some models, at our own cost, to Condor Ferries. We are never one to turn down an opportunity in any shape or form! These were sold on the ferry that sailed between Poole to the Channel Islands. I remember the order well for a silly reason; we had to add on additional adhesive hooks to the packaging by hand, so they could hang on the Eurohook display units on the ship.
I started Utterly Horses when was 16 years old in the era before social media, Wifi and a stable internet connection (does anyone else remember the sound that dial-up use to make?!). Smartphones didn't exist, Mobile phones were just lumps of plastic and eBay and Amazon were still in their infancy. It was also the time in which no-one under the age of 18 could open a business bank account, have a credit card or sign business cheques. It's hard to imagine that time now, although it's amazing to see how far we have all come in both technology and acceptance of young entrepeneurs.
Due to these limitations of being so young in the world of business (and a girl at that), I needed some references and recognition to my name. It was difficult to be taken seriously without them as many thought the business was just a hobby and not a fully functioning company I worked on and in 24/7. This is when I (or the royal we, Utterly Horses and I), started to enter Business Awards, as an award to your name is the best accolade to have and it's proof that you know what you are doing and where you are going.
To enter a business competition you have to submit an application that answers several predefined questions about your business and how you operate. Judges would be looking for companies that demonstrate the ability to survive and grow through everything life can throw at them!! For example, in a New Company category, the questions could be about how you have identified and researched your particular business opportunity, to provide details of current growth of the business, company facts and figures, understanding of the market and what is in place for sustained and improved growth of the business over the next 3 years. As you can see, it's not a simple case of a one word answer to enter these types of competitions! Most of my entries averaged around 10 pages (i never dared count the words!!) in addition to supplying supporting materials like catalogues, product information, financial accounts and market research.
It was in these award entries that the first records of Copperfox are mentioned in a brief form and the seed for our next adventure was planted. To quote an early competition entry from 2003: "Within the next 5 years, our aim is to create our own range of model horses based upon British Breeds of horses, like the Suffolk Punch and Shetland Pony. Currently there are no models of British breeds for our customers to purchase and it is a gap in the market that needs to be filled". Sadly it took a little longer than 5 years for this aim to come to fruition but as they say, better late than never!
Winning an award is an amazing feeling, especially when it's the business you have created has won. It's a very proud moment! When I won LiveWire I received a cheque for £1,500 which I remember spending on UH's first website and getting sign writing done on my car (beep beep!). Winning also enabled us to get lots of press coverage in both the local and national press which helped with our publicity. I even managed to get a mention in JAH (Just About Horses- Breyers publication), in addition to a wonderful card from Breyer themselves.
Below are some images and press cuttings from my very first award. I was Winner of Shell Livewire Young Entrepreneur of Essex in 2002. Livewire is a competition that still runs today so I would recommend any budding entrepreneurs to enter the competition (here is the link) and have a go. It was a competition that you had to submit an application for and once judged, the finalists were each interviewed in front of a panel of 5 judges to answer more questions (bearing in mind this was 2002, a long time before Dragons Den!). Being interviewed in this way was a character defining moment and one that taught me to know my numbers and business inside out, especially when you had to think on the hoof.
By the end of 2004, Utterly Horses had won the following awards:
- Winner Shell Livewire Young Entrepreneur of Essex 2002
- Winner New company in the Essex Countywide Awards 2002
- Highly Commended in Young Business Person of the Year category of Essex Golden Jubilee Awards 2002
- One of 20 National Finalists in the Women Mean Business Awards 2003
- One of the National & Regional Finalists in Parcelforce Worldwide Awards 2003
- Winner of Best eBusiness award in the Mid Essex Business Awards 2004
- National Finalist in the Parcelforce Worldwide Awards 2004
- Finalist in Best Growing Business category in the Essex Business Awards 2004
What else do I remember from those early years? I do remember supplying packs of models for the UK premiere of Seabiscuit. The organizers wanted some of the Breyer Stablemates 3 piece sets (the ones that had Seabiscuit, War Admiral and Pumpkin) to give out at the event to attendees, so that was something we had never done before.
I also remember hosting our first live show and hobby day in Great Dunmow, Essex back in 2002 and the wonderful people of the Model Horse Hobby helping out. Sadly I can't seem to find any pictures of this event, nor the other events that came afterwards. Does anyone have any pictures lurking on their computers somewhere? Please share if so as It would be great to see them. :-)
We also had a showroom at our premises in which visitors could come and see our full range of models. Here are a couple of blurry pictures. One of me painting the showroom and another when it relocated into another part of the premises. There are those hexagonal SM boxes again!
Advertising in Equestrian magazines was one of the ways we increased our publicity for Utterly Horses and below are our adverts, for 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 that graced the back cover of Pony Magazine (click for larger images). I designed the artwork myself and am completely self taught (by a lot of trial and error!!)- and comparing these adverts to our most recent ones, I have improved in leaps and bounds!
Writing this story, it's interesting to remember where we have been and why things happened like they did. By 2004, Utterly Horses had taken on more product ranges, stocking Breyer, Stone, Britains, Schleich, Grand Champions and a range of scented plush horses (they were fantastic!!). Delving deep into my memory banks (they are a little dusty!!), this was around the time that Breyer appointed their first sales agent for the UK and with that came more Breyer stockists. It was an adapt and evolve situation, making ourselves different to everyone else by becoming a specialist in a broader niche than a specific brand. I do also remember this time for a quite silly reason. From the beginning, until Breyer appointed their first official distributor, Utterly Horses obtained it's stock directly from Breyer US, importing it into the UK in MASSIVE 40ft containers. I always remember that we had a certain time limit to unload the container, by hand, and the mad scramble it was to rope in every available body to lift a box. It's funny how everyone always seemed to be busy on the day our containers arrived...!!
Our aim was to always create our own range of British themed models and over the years we did this in a small way by creating models based upon personalities or breeds found in the British Isles. We didn't take the big leap of faith creating Copperfox back then, and in hindsight we should have been braver- and jumped! With the help of Stone Horses we released our first Stone Special Run in collaboration with the ILPH (The International League for the Protection of Horses) in 2004/2005. 100 models were produced in total- 50 with a plaited mane and 50 with a full mane, with all of them being limited to UK/Ireland sales only. Here is the original blurb for the models.
"Utterly Horses & The ILPH (International League for the Protection for Horses) have joined forces to bring you an exclusive special run model- ILPH Damson. Damson was born at the ILPH when her Mum, Victoria Plum, came to Hall Farm in Norfolk. Plums elderly owner was forced to give up her nine horses, which included Plum, because she could no longer afford to care for them properly. In the past she had successfully bred Arab horses and had covered Plum with a special palomino stallion as she was trying to produce a particular type of colour which would have made the foal extremely valuable. No one has been able to give a name to her unique colour and no one is sure of what colour Damson will eventually turn out to be, but one thing we do know is that she is definitely very special. The Damson Model is limited to 100pcs (50pcs of each model) worldwide and is available to UK/Ireland Residents Only. It is also limited to one model per person. We have produced two types of model- one with a plaited mane and another with a full mane and tail. Both models are in a matte finish. The model is only available from Utterly Horses"
Occasionally we have seen these models pop up on the secondhand market and you often wonder where all those models are today. Do you have one in your collection? If so, please let us know. It would be cool to find out where they all are!!
So, what else have I found in my treasure trove that is our archives? Below are some very cool points in time that i think you will like knowing more about. Image 1 is a press cutting from the local paper, in addition to a copy of the contents page from the Sunday Telegraph in which we had managed to get Buchelphaus into their Christmas gift guide. It was a big moment for us, being a national newspaper, that everyone could buy at the local shop or newsagents. Image 2 was a big piece about Utterly Horses in the Sunday Express, again a national newspaper. You can imagine the reaction when we went to get a copy! (I think there was a bit of screaming!!) Image 3 is of our first Utterly Horses Catalogues. The blue was the first half of the year and the red was the second half. Image 4 is of a press cutting from the Sunday Times in 2004 in which a designer mentioned Utterly Horses and her love of collecting Model Horses. Next to that cutting is a business award programme, covered in lots of scribbles. Those scribbles were in fact brainstorming. It's funny how inspiration can strike at any moment!
These golden years were full of happy memories, fun and learning. Even writing about it now it reminded me of when we used to pack orders late into the night. It wasn't unusual during our business time of the year, the festive season, to be packing orders at 2am/3am in the morning, with the radio blaring dance tunes and the coffee flowing (of course, with the essential tin of biscuits to accompany it). Luckily our premises during this time was very remote and the neighbours in the other business units were used to the "horsey" people working all hours!! The odd occasion we would still be there when they turned up for work the next morning. Not sure I would be up for that now; it would be way past my bedtime! (gosh, i sound old. Who would think i'm only 32! Haha!)
Hope you enjoyed this piece about the Copperfox Story. Please stay tuned for the next chapter- times are a changing...!